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High time we dropped concept of only government-funded universities: Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan

The Lok Sabha passed the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill that seeks to convert the National Rail and Transport University in Gujarat into an autonomous Gati Shakti University with a voice vote.

New Delhi: Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan speaks in the Lok Sabha during ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. (SANSAD TV/PTI Photo) (PTI08_03_2022_000227A)

India will become self-reliant in technology by the end of this year and people should let go of the idea that universities must only be funded by the government, Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in reply to a debate on Central Universities (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha Wednesday.

The Lok Sabha Wednesday passed the Bill that seeks to convert the National Rail and Transport University in Gujarat into an autonomous Central university with a voice vote. While the debate over the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 progressed amid sloganeering from Opposition members over the issue of misuse of Central agencies, all parties that participated in the debate supported the Bill. The new university will be rechristened as Gati Shakti University an autonomous Central university that will address the need for talent in the integrated infrastructure development of the country.

“By the end of 2022, this country will be self-reliant in the field of technology. Not just infrastructure, but big industries, social schemes …where will farming happen? Where will a school be built? …All need a masterplan. It is the need of the hour that there is a knowledge repository of all these industrial initiatives and infrastructure vision. In this background, the Gati Shakti University has been imagined,” Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in reply to the debate over the Bill.

Pradhan said that Indian Railways had footsteps in 20 countries. Once the Bill gets the nod from both Houses of Parliament, the proposed university will be funded and administered by the Railways Ministry.

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‘Gati Shakti University is a futuristic university’

Elaborating on what the university will teach, Pradhan said, “Today aviation has reached remote locations in the country. We are talking about driverless train engines. All these are based on technology and need a specific skill set. And they will be taught in Gati Shakti University. There is a need for capacity building of all employees of the transport sector. By 2025, there will be as many things done by machines as are being done by hands today. Those machines will need people behind operation. This is a futuristic university. This will be the first research, entrepreneurship and multi-disciplinary university in the country. This university will also teach issues related to displaced people and how they should be rehabilitated.”

Need an education policy that produces job givers too

“Our capabilities are meant for poor countries of the world. That is why it is our mandate to establish institutions of global standards. There are 25 crore people in the age-group of 15-25 years in the country. But, only 11 crore students are studying in various schools and institutions. Close to 14 crore get into the unskilled job ecosystem. Gross enrolment ratio in higher education is 27%. We need to increase it to 50% by 2030. We need an education policy that produces employable youth who do not only become job seekers but also job givers,” Pradhan said.

After many MPs raised the issue of SC/ST reserved posts remaining vacant in universities, Pradhan said it was legacy of the UPA government and that the Modi government was committed to filling up the posts in mission mode.

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On the issue of financial implications for the new university, the minister said there were no new financial implications for the university.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who participated in the debate, said, “The transportation sector is very complex, especially if we look at Railways and metro trains. If such sectors have to move forward according to the aspirations of the nation, we will need a comprehensive package of technical education. It is with this view that in 2018 the National Rail and Transport Institute was established as a deemed university. After its success, now, on a larger scale, this proposal is being presented before the House. In this, technical knowledge, engineering and economics related to metro, regional rail, highway, bridge, ports etc will be included.”

Vaishnaw said a similar system is followed in all developed countries, including the US, Japan, China and Russia.

Five main objectives of Gati Shakti University

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“This university will have five main objectives. The first objective will be transport-focused courses. Then there will be skill-development courses under the framework of skill-India campaign. The third objective is applied research in the fields of bridge, tunnel and port construction. The fourth will be technological development. The fifth will be transport economics and infrastructure finance,” said Vaishnaw and added that there would be off-campuses of the university in various parts of the country.

Participating in the debate, Sangeeta Azad of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) highlighted the issue of lack of jobs for the youth and the vacancies in posts reserved for SCs and STs in universities which she suggested was due to discrimination.

Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) tried to raise the issue of tussle between West Bengal police and Delhi police over raids on some Jharkhand MLAs, but the chair struck his comments from the records.

Kaushalendra Kumar of Janata Dal (United) (JDU) and Ramkripal Yadav of the BJP demanded that Nav Nalanda deemed university and Patna University should get the status of a Central University.

Chandrashekhar Sahu of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) said the Bill would provide opportunities to the youth and drastically change the transport system in the country. He, however, raised the issue of the only Central university in Odisha being run poorly.

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“We have only one central university in Odisha in Koraput, a tribal dominated district. But it is not functioning properly. The posts of professors are vacant, no research activity is being carried out and the vice-chancellor stays in Bhubaneswar and not Koraput. It is very unfortunate,” he said.

Lack of global diversity in terms of foreign teachers and students: TDP

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K Rama Mohan Reddy of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) said, “Indian universities are still struggling on the global ranking platform. The reasons for this are lack of global diversity in terms of foreign teachers and students, lack of global reputation, inadequate student-faculty ratio and obsolete research facilities. This new university should have tie-ups with such universities globally, while promoting indigenous knowledge and innovation.

During the debate the House was adjourned for an hour due to ruckus created by the Opposition.

First published on: 03-08-2022 at 08:58:50 pm
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